Sunday, June 23, 2013

You Don't Have To Like Edward Snowden:

But Snowden’s personal story is interesting only because the new details he revealed are so much more interesting. We know substantially more about domestic surveillance than we did, thanks largely to stories and documents printed by The Guardian. They would have been just as revelatory without Snowden’s name on them. The shakeout has produced more revelatory reporting, notably this new McClatchy piece on the way in which President Obama’s obsession with leaks has manifested itself in the bureaucracy with a new “Insider Threat Program.”

Snowden’s flight and its surrounding geopolitics are a good story; what he made public is a better one. I’m not sure why reporters should care all that much about his personal moral status, the meaning of the phrase “civil disobedience,” or the fate of his eternal soul. And the public who used to be known as “readers” are going to have to get used to making that distinction.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The NSA Is Building the Country's Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say) | Threat Level |

For the first time, a former NSA official has gone on the record to describe the program, codenamed Stellar Wind, in detail. William Binney was a senior NSA crypto-mathematician largely responsible for automating the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network. A tall man with strands of black hair across the front of his scalp and dark, determined eyes behind thick-rimmed glasses, the 68-year-old spent nearly four decades breaking codes and finding new ways to channel billions of private phone calls and email messages from around the world into the NSA’s bulging databases. As chief and one of the two cofounders of the agency’s Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center, Binney and his team designed much of the infrastructure that’s still likely used to intercept international and foreign communications.

He explains that the agency could have installed its tapping gear at the nation’s cable landing stations—the more than two dozen sites on the periphery of the US where fiber-optic cables come ashore. If it had taken that route, the NSA would have been able to limit its eavesdropping to just international communications, which at the time was all that was allowed under US law. Instead it chose to put the wiretapping rooms at key junction points throughout the country—large, windowless buildings known as switches—thus gaining access to not just international communications but also to most of the domestic traffic flowing through the US. The network of intercept stations goes far beyond the single room in an AT&T building in San Francisco exposed by a whistle-blower in 2006. “I think there’s 10 to 20 of them,” Binney says. “That’s not just San Francisco; they have them in the middle of the country and also on the East Coast.”

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

RIP Michael Hastings: ‘We Punch Folks. They Punch Back. That’s the Deal.’ - The ITT List:

Afterward, Hastings and I stayed in touch. Occasionally, when I would write the kind of stories that would prompt people to go after me, I would email Hastings asking him for advice about how to deal with the heat. On one such occasion when I was getting hit pretty hard over comments I had made about the Atlantic taking money from anti-union sources, Hastings told me to keep my cool and not go after those attacking me.

Hastings wrote in an email, “You have the high ground. You've made your criticisms in public, with your name behind it. The response (as is often the case inside the Beltway) has been to start bad mouthing you in the clubhouse. That's the price, though.” He added, “We punch folks, they punch back. That's the deal.”

Missing Michael Hastings:

One day last fall, he had a furious exchange with a spokesman for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. His impulse, and mine, was to print the back-and-forth, the crucial exchange of which was:

Reines: Why do you bother to ask questions you’ve already decided you know the answers to?

Hastings: Why don’t you give answers that aren’t bullshit for a change?

But there was a problem: Michael had not exactly conducted himself as well-mannered professional in the exchange. “You will look,” I pointed out to him, “like an asshole.”

“Everyone knows I’m an asshole,” he said. “The point is that they’re assholes.”

Monday, June 17, 2013

Laugh It Off by Cienna Madrid - Seattle Theater - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper:

It's a Tuesday night in the basement of the Rendezvous, and, up until a minute ago, the room was packed with the kind of crowd comedians dream of—attentive, polite, and quick to laugh. But that all ends when a young male comedian takes the stage with a set that revolves around domestic violence and date rape jokes. "If a girl asks to jerk me off, I'll crack her in the face," he says.

That's precisely the type of comment that doesn't go over well at this weekly open mic, known as the Comedy Womb. The crowd is stonily silent. He pushes on. "I've never understood date rape," he says, nervously running a hand through his hair. "I'd never date a girl after I raped her."

"Get off the stage," someone shouts, breaking the Comedy Womb's no-heckling rule.

"I guess I'll leave you with that," he says.

"Yes, please do," shouts another audience member.

A few people clap in relief as a female comedian—one of 12 performing this evening—takes his place.

Later, Comedy Womb founder Danielle Gregoire will call the experience a "learning lesson."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Chilling Letter From Chinese Factory Worker Found In Kmart Halloween Decorations - Yahoo! India Finance:

The New York Times has identified the man who wrote a chilling letter describing Chinese factory conditions that was found in a box of Halloween decorations from Kmart.

The man, identified only as Mr. Zhang to protect his identity, told the Times that he was imprisoned in a labor camp where " inmates toiled seven days a week, their 15-hour days haunted by sadistic guards."

The labor camps are full of petty criminals or people who rebel against the country's religion, Mr. Zhang said. He said he wrote 20 letters over the course of two years.

One was discovered by Julie Keith of Oregon, who had bought the decorations over a year ago but decided to use them to decorate for her daughter's birthday party last October.

Inside the box, she found a plea for help supposedly written by a Chinese factory worker in Masanjia Labor Camp in Shenyang, The Oregonian reported at the time.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Jon Peters - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

In his Q&A/comedy DVD, An Evening With Kevin Smith, writer/director Kevin Smith related an anecdote about working for Peters when he was hired to write a script for a new Superman movie, then called Superman Reborn, and later renamed Superman Lives.[7] According to Smith, Peters had expressed disdain for most of Superman's iconic characteristics by demanding that Superman was never to fly[8] or appear in his trademark costume.[8] He also suggested Sean Penn as being ideal for the role, based on his performance as a death row inmate in Dead Man Walking saying that Penn had the eyes of a "caged animal, a fucking killer." Peters then demanded that the third act of the film include a fight between Superman and a giant spider,[9] to be unveiled in an homage to King Kong. Peters later produced the 1999 steampunk western Wild Wild West, the finale of which features a giant mechanical spider.[9]

Smith met Peters after completing a script and Peters instructed him to include a robot sidekick for Brainiac, a fight scene between Brainiac and two polar bears, and a marketable "space dog" pet, similar to Star Wars character Chewbacca. Smith inserted them into his script, but the project eventually was abandoned and the script discarded.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The BRAD BLOG : 'We're in the Abyss': My KPFK 'BradCast' Intvw with Daniel Ellsberg on Edward Snowden:

"What he has revealed, of course, is documentary evidence of a broadly, blatantly unconstitutional program here which negates the Fourth Amendment," Ellsberg said. "And if it continues in this way, I think it makes democracy essentially impossible or meaningless."

As usual, Ellsberg pulled no punches in his comments on the dangers of our privatized surveillance state; the failure of our Congressional intelligence oversight committees (which he describes as "fraudulent" and "totally broken"); and on those who have been critical of Snowden and of Glenn Greenwald, the journalist from The Guardian who has broken most of the scoops on Snowden's leaked documents.

He said that folks like attorney Jeffrey Toobin at the New Yorker and author Thomas Friedman at New York Times and Senator Dianne Feinstein "are being very strongly discredited," by their attacks on Snowden. "The criticisms they're making, I think, are very discreditable to them in their profession," he says.

And, while answering to my request for a response to Josh Marshall's recent piece at TPM, in which Marshall weights his own conscience on this matter and frankly revealing his natural tendency to support the government over whistleblowers in cases like this, Ellsberg was particularly pointed. "Marshall has a lot to be said for him as a blogger," he said, before adding: "I think what he said there is stupid and mistaken and does not do him credit."

Edward Snowden and the State-Identified Journalist:

And from Marshall's point of view, Bradley Manning did not have a very good reason to give thousands of government documents to WikiLeaks:

Coming from this perspective, it's hard to see any justification for what Manning did, which is basically downloading everything he could find and giving it to a foreign national (Assange) with the expectation that he'd just dump it into the public. There were a couple clear cases of wrongdoing revealed in his documents. But the vast majority were fairly mundane diplomatic cables, military records and so forth.

Now, the idea that WikiLeaks didn't reveal much in the way of U.S. wrongdoing is an article of faith in corporate media–and it's not true. But consider the larger context: Manning released documents relating to the "war on terror," in which the United States invaded and occupied two countries, killing hundreds of thousands, waged undeclared war on several other countries via a secret drone assassination program, and imprisoned thousands of people it accused of being enemies without trial, subjecting many of them to torture. Does that add up to a "really, really good reason"? Not if you "basically identify with the country and the state," apparently.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Why journalists should listen to Mike Daisey’s thoughts on journalism | Poynter.:

I didn’t see “Journalism” the show, but I think Mike Daisey’s thoughts on journalism the profession are worth hearing out. Not only is the guy an avid consumer of media news, but he’s got a lot of experience with journalists, who’ve written about him and interviewed him before and after his scandal. Too few journalists see their work through the eyes of others or have to answer questions about it.

Daisey and I have been communicating occasionally since last July, when he objected to a post I wrote. We’ve tweeted and emailed since, and in April he invited my wife and I to a performance of his monologue “American Utopias” in Washington, D.C. I had a blast (as did my wife, who is a professional fact-checker). The Friday before last, Daisey and I spoke on the phone for an hour about “Journalism.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Senators propose bill to declassify orders behind NSA spying | The Verge:

A bipartisan group of eight prominent US senators announced a new bill today to declassify the court opinions that give the US National Security Agency the legal power to carry out the sweeping internet surveillance program known as PRISM and the separate phone records surveillance program, both revealed last week by leaked documents. “Americans deserve to know how much information about their private communications the government believes it’s allowed to take under the law," said Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), the architect of the bill, a version of which he originally introduced last December, but which failed to gain traction at the time.
Jedediah Purdy: Why I Got Arrested in Raleigh: The States Are the New Front Line:

Henry David Thoreau, another privileged white guy who spent a night in jail with good company and pleasant jailors (mine were uniformly polite, and some were friendly), reported in "Civil Disobedience" that by resisting the law he hoped to make an appeal from the people - the present majority that was accepting slavery and the Mexican-American War - to themselves, that is, to their higher consciences. That's why civil disobedience makes sense, and why it's part of the compact a civilized country makes with itself. Submitting peacefully to arrest is a way citizens tell one another that an issue is very important, that it might be worth real attention and thought. In a noisy time, it's a way of trying to start serious conversations.

Thoreau also reported that, when he got out of the Concord jail, he headed to a nearby hilltop to lead a huckleberry-gathering expedition. I think he meant that, whatever you do in politics, you need to stay connected to your own real sources. The wild blueberries aren't ripe yet in the Grayson Highlands, a few hours away, but delicious wild mustard greens are everywhere, and chanterelle mushrooms are beginning to come up in the woods near Chapel Hill. They aren't illegal, yet, and I'll be scouting for them later today.

Friday, June 07, 2013

America the passive -

And I think there’s more to the indifference, even by a lot of liberals, to this latest news than just “it’s OK when our guy does it.” Partly, we blame ourselves. Probably every one of us has thought from time to time about how exposed we all are, from our cellphones to email to the Internet “cloud” to all of social media — and then we go about our business using all of it because it’s all so damn awesome. And so, on some level, we feel partly culpable. We always knew, or suspected, all of this was possible — and went on doing it anyway.

We know our cellphone signal lets us be tracked, which sometimes seems creepy, but seems excellent when you can activate “Find My Phone” to locate your iPhone in the cab where you dropped it last night, or find the best Japanese restaurant near your current location on Yelp. We all scream when Facebook changes its privacy settings without notice – but very few of us close our accounts in protest. We are tweeting our outrage from our Sprint smartphones, Googling to find out whether Sen. Obama really flip-flopped and voted to authorize the way the Bush administration was using FISA in 2008 (he did), then G-chatting with our editors about when we’re filing our stories on all of it.

There’s a strong Calvinist impulse in the American psyche: So often, Americans blame themselves for their troubles. If I worked harder, maybe I wouldn’t have lost my job. I should have stayed in school. If I hadn’t gotten so drunk, I wouldn’t have been date-raped. If I wasn’t strutting all over social media like a strumpet, and so tied to my iPhone, addicted to my email, they wouldn’t have so much data on me. We shouldn’t have walked down that dark data alley; it’s not like we weren’t warned.

Pitchfork: So the second you write something down, it's fiction.

Tom Waits: There is no such thing as nonfiction. There is no such thing as truth. People who really know what happened aren't talking. And the people who don't have a clue, you can't shut them up. It's the same with your own stories, the ones that circulate around with your family and your friends. We're all part of the same hypocrisy.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Real Economy vs. The Wall Street Economy:

Almost five years after the near-total collapse of the global economy, the stock market has once again reached new highs. The rich are, without a doubt, getting richer. So have we actually recovered from the Great Recession? No, not at all.

A new quarterly report from UCLA economists finds the current recovery is proceeding at a much slower pace than earlier recoveries. So things are improving from the absolute bottom, yes, but it's hardly reason for celebration. "It's not a recovery," writes economist Edward Leamer. "It's not even normal growth. It's bad."

Some things, of course, have recovered just fine: stock prices, the earning power of the very rich, the hubris of Wall Street. Heck, investment banks are even back to selling the same type of synthetic CDOs that precipitated the last financial crisis. For the rich, and for those whose wealth flows from Wall Street one way or another, times are good.

Other things have not recovered. The unemployment rate, which was well under 5% in late 2007, now sits stubbornly at 7.5%. Average home prices are still about a quarter less than their (inflated) pre-recession high. The income of most people has not recovered. Since only half of Americans own any stocks at all, soaring stock prices are of little benefit to the general public unless companies are creating jobs, rather than sitting on tons of cash.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


Today the trial of Private First Class Bradley Manning begins. To mark this occasion, I’m releasing an audio recording of my monologue
BRADLEY MANNING’S WAR, recorded on April 22nd at the Public Theater in Joe’s Pub in New York City.

This recording is the first time I had ever tackled the subject aloud, and is raw and ungainly in places—it is what it is, a single public conversation on a single night. But aesthetic considerations are secondary to my concerns as a citizen, and with the amount of disinformation and spin clouding the issues of Mr. Manning’s actions, motives, and disposition, if this piece is even slightly helpful in creating a human connection for people it will be worthwhile.

For a remarkable and well-told story of Mr. Manning’s in another medium, I unreservedly recommend Chase Madar’s
THE PASSION OF BRADLEY MANNING, which is without a doubt the best book on the subject that has been written so far. Mr. Madar does a comprehensive, clear-eyed, and humane job covering the facts of the case. You can purchase his book here.

I’ll be revising and returning to Mr. Manning and his war in the future, regardless of what the courts decide, because I believe his war is a war we must all be waging, in ways large and small. His crimes are crimes of conscience—if we refuse to understand why he was driven to them, we can not understand the face of who we are in the world.

You can download an MP3 of the performance here:


Monday, June 03, 2013

Going to Disney World Sure Is Expensive - Richard Lawson - The Atlantic Wire:

If you've got little ones constantly pulling on your pant legs, tearfully begging you to take them to Disney World, or if you're one of those whimsical adults who loves going to children's theme parks, I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. It will now cost any person over the age of ten $92 for a day pass to Disneyland, plus $16 in parking fees, and a whopping $95 for Disney World. So if your kid's in fourth grade, that'll be nearly a hundred bucks to take them on the Dumbo ride. Or to wait in line at Splash Mountain. To pay twenty bucks for a soda and a damn churro. It's an expensive place, is what I'm saying. That's nearly $400 for a family of four to spend a single day at Disney World, forget hotels and flights and food and whatever souvenir you're hoodwinked into buying. So, I dunno. Maybe just put on the Aladdin DVD and call it a day. They can go to Disney when they're older and can pay for themselves. Or maybe they just won't go at all. I mean by the time they grow up it'll be like $200. Who's got that kinda money to ride the Thunder Mountain Railroad?
BuzzFeed Writer Resigns In Disgrace After Plagiarizing ‘10 Llamas Who Wish They Were Models’ | The Onion - America's Finest News Source:

“We would like to offer our sincerest apologies to our readers for the egregious unprofessionalism of our recent slideshow ‘10 Llamas Who Wish They Were Models,’” BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith wrote in a press statement Wednesday. “The unauthorized reproduction of proprietary llama photographs and the plagiarism of captions and emoticons by former employee Tim Mills represented a breach of BuzzFeed’s stringent journalistic standards and an inexcusable violation of our readers’ trust. As of today, Mills no longer works for this company.”

“We have added additional checks and reviews to ensure that BuzzFeed continues to provide only the highest quality slideshows of animals riding on top of other animals, animated GIFs of people dancing poorly, and compilations of the best celebrity tweets from Verne Troyer, Bob Saget, and others,” Smith continued. “Our users deserve nothing less.”

Saturday, June 01, 2013

"The world is divided into two kinds of people: the natives and the strangers."